Karyn Rotker On Voter ID Ruling

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Karyn Rotker On Voter ID Ruling

Premiere Date: 
May 2, 2014

The ACLU lawyer discusses the group's victory in court this week over the voter ID law.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

But, first, a Milwaukee federal court this week struck down Wisconsin's voter ID law, Act 23. Judge Lynn Adelman ruled the law violates the Voting Rights Act and the US constitution. He said evidence at trial showed some 300,000 Wisconsin voters lack the right kind of photo ID to be able to cast a ballot under the law saying, a substantial number of those are low-income and have had trouble trying to get one, including the cost of a birth certificate or other documents. In his ruling finding the law unconstitutional under the equal protection clause Judge Adelman said, "It is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent ones.”  Especially, he notes, because evidence at trial showed there is virtually no voter fraud at the polls in Wisconsin. Adelman also struck down the law on the basis it violates the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits limiting the right to vote on account of race saying, "Act 23 has a disproportionate impact on black and Latino voters because it is more likely to burden those voters with the costs of obtaining a photo ID that they would not otherwise obtain.” So, after greatly distilling the 90-page decision, we turn now to one of the victors in the case, the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that challenged the law in federal court. Karyn Rotker is senior staff attorney with ACLU of Wisconsin. Karyn, thanks for being here.

Karyn Rotker:

Thanks for inviting me.

Frederica Freyberg:

What was your reaction when you learned of Judge Adelman's decision?

Karyn Rotker:

We were delighted and pleased that the judge recognized what we’ve been saying all along, at trial and for years beforehand, that a lot of people don't have ID, that it's hard for a lot of people to get ID, that those voters are disproportionately people of color, black and Latino voters, and that the state’s interest-- The state is basically having-- setting up a problem-- or a solution in search for a problem. There is no voter impersonation fraud that this would prevent, and it's burdening a lot of voters.

Frederica Freyberg:

Give us an example of one of the plaintiffs who testified at trial about their trouble with getting a photo ID to vote.

Karyn Rotker:

Sure. And there were many. In fact, at one point the state complain the evidence was becoming cumulative, because we were talking about so many people with burdens. An example is Mr. Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr., who was born in Illinois. His father was, obviously, Eddie Lee Holloway. They inadvertently wrote Eddie Junior Holloway on his birth certificate. In Illinois that didn’t prevent him from getting a state ID card. Here DMV told him that he would have to go back to Illinois and amend his birth certificate before he was able to get an ID. We have Miss Shirley Brown, who like many African American elderly people, was born in the south and never had a birth certificate. She also went to DMV and was told, with a letter that her elementary school had written that had been good enough for her to get Medicare, and DMV would not issue her an ID with that. Those are just two of many examples.

Frederica Freyberg:

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says that he will appeal this ruling, and expects to prevail. How do you respond to that?

Karyn Rotker:

We’re disappointed but I guess not surprised that he expects-- that he plans to appeal. We are very confident in our case. We think the evidence at trial was very strong. Unlike other voter ID cases where, particularly the Indiana one that gets thrown around a lot, where there were no voters put forward who would have been unable to vote because of the voter ID law, in this case we did have people, like Miss Brown, like Mr. Holloway who would have been completely unable to vote in November 2012 under this voter ID law. And we have a lot more evidence about the lack of any kind of unlawful voting behavior that this law would prevent. So, we are-- You know, we will proceed but we are confident.

Frederica Freyberg:

How in your mind does the Adelman decision layout challenges to similar voter ID laws across the country?

Karyn Rotker:

Well, we think it’s-- It looks at it in two ways, again. You have a lot of individual examples and details about the ways in which voters are burdened by the law and the ways in which voters who have lived for years without ID. I know there is a lot of mythology out there that everybody needs an ID. But you know,  as Judge Adelman found out in the case, these are voters who don't fly on airplanes, don't cash checks, don't drive, and haven’t  had a need for an ID. Don't necessarily have birth certificates, or  birth certificates DMV will accept, don't have paid time off work to get to DMV during daytime hours, other problems like that that he found. Also, that there was a lot of evidence, including expert testimony about, “voter fraud” or the lack there of in Wisconsin, particularly again, the only kind of improper voting behavior this would prevent, which is impersonation. You know, people talk about voter fraud as one lump sum, maybe throw out double voting. There are a lot of double voters who register and vote with their ID cards so it would be irrelevant. The only kind voter fraud that this could prevent is essentially nonexistent, as the judge found. And we think, you know, each state and each place where it is being challenged needs to look at their own situation and gather their own evidence, but we think it's a good road map.

Frederica Freyberg:

Very briefly, in really just less than half a minute left, is there a way that you could see the legislature changing the Wisconsin voter ID law that would make it constitutional?

Karyn Rotker:

I'm not sure what the legislature would do. We know that during the trial they had some idea of having people swear to poverty at the poles, that’s definitely-- That kind of public shaming is definitely not going to do it. You know, if there was an exception for people who didn't have ID to be able to swear or state, you know, their identity or something like that and eliminate the burdens, perhaps that would fly. We’d have to see the details of it.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Karyn Rotker, thanks very much for joining us.

Karyn Rotker:

Thanks for inviting me.  


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